In March, the UCI announced a new qualifying system for the World Cup season, and World Cups. Rather than each country automatically getting spots for the World Cups, individuals now have to qualify themselves through summer UCI races, accumulating points at different level races. So instead of finishing exams, and having a chance to take a break, it was quite the opposite for me. One week after finishing the school year, I was off to Europe!
Most of the UCI races are in Europe, and so I would have loved to spend quite a bit of time there, gaining experience, and points at the same time. Unfortunately, my funds were limited, so I picked a two week span with two consecutive races, in Belgium, and then Spain.
Arriving in Belgium, I was shocked! There was enough depth for a World Cup race, but this only meant that I would gain even more from the experience at these races. I qualified well in Belgium, but in the end, it was apparent that my tactics were a little bit rusty. It had been months since I last raced the sprint at Pan-Ams, and almost a year since my last keirin! I came away with good experience, but not the results I was hoping for. Luckily, I had a week until my next race in Valencia, Spain, so I had the opportunity to tour two very interesting cities, Ghent, and Brugge while still in Belgium. These old cities had some incredible architecture, and of course before I left, I had to test out a few of the amazing Belgian Chocolate shops!
Next up was Valencia, with even more riders. The excitement began even before the racing, with some disagreements between commisaires and team officials, but luckily all was sorted out in time. Being the solo rider from Canada, I was put in the French team’s pit area (I guess they think all Canadians speak French!). It was very interesting to see not just how many riders, but how much staff and coaches these teams brought with them to these races! These countries are taking the summer qualifying races seriously! I raced much better tactically in Valencia, but I left wanting more!
Valencia was one of the coolest cities I have ever seen. There was such a sharp contrast with the old city, and the new and modern City of Arts and Sciences. The old city had narrow streets, with markets and shops filled with hundreds of iberico hams (Spanish version of prosciutto), and only a short distance away, a whole city with the craziest, most abstract architecture. And of course, the best way to get around was on ValenBICI (Valencia’s version of Bixi bikes!), with bike racks literally every second intersection.
A quick trip to the beach to dip my feet in the Mediterranean completed my time in Spain. Overall, the trip was an amazing learning experience, racing against the top riders from Europe. I sharpened my tactics, while gaining some qualifying points.
Coming home, I must have caught a bug on the plane, which wasn’t very good, because in less than two weeks I was off to T-Town! After having been sick for a solid 10 days, I made the 6hr drive to T-town on Thursday, and raced the Keirin Cup the following evening. T-Town has always been one of my favourite places to race. The atmosphere, with thousands of spectators, and a field full of international riders on a regular basis can only be described as amazing. The following week was another UCI qualifier in T-Town, and luckily for me, my wonderful Mom made the drive down to cheer me on! Of course, a trip to T-town would never be complete without a little bit of drama, including a last minute change in schedule, being called to the line right after a 20 second warmup sprint on the rollers! My legs and tactics finally started to come around, with a 5th place finish, thus getting a few more qualifying points.
Next up on the schedule is the US Grand Prix of Sprinting in Colorado Springs this week, so stay tuned!
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